By Kent Wilson PhD ~
How clearly do you understand God’s objectives for your stewardship?
The Parable of the Talents in Matt. 25:14-30—and its parallel in Luke 19:11-27—develops one of the richest sources of information about the steward and stewardship in the biblical record. It is from this story that we can discern the historical and cultural demands placed upon stewards and how those demands are translated into spiritual principles by the Lord.
Historically, in classical societies a steward’s primary role and responsibility was to manage the resources belonging to another in order to achieve the owner’s objectives and goals. When the master’s goals are clearly delineated, a steward has clear direction to manage the resources with the intent of achieving those goals. This parable is important historically because it clearly reveals the master’s goals and intentions for the stewardship being entrusted.
Three different Greek words used in these two passages are borrowed from Greek business terminology and reveal different aspects of the master’s goals for the stewards’ work:
(1) ergazoumai, “to work, trade,” is used in Matt. 25:16;
(2) pragmateuomai, “to conduct or be engaged in a business,” is used in Luke 19:13; and
(3) diapragmateuomai, “to gain by trading, to earn,” is used in Luke 19:15.
All three words emphasize a common focus of many first century stewards. They stress how the master wanted the stewards to make the talents grow:
(1) by putting the resources “to work” (since money by itself is a non-working asset);
(2) by using resources to serve people’s needs with products or services; and
(3) by using resources to create growth.
How do these instructions from the master in the parable help us today as stewards of God’s physical and eternal resources? Although not every element of the parable is meant to be applied, we do know that Jesus wanted us to see an analogy of God in the master of the story.
God certainly does want his resources to be “put to work” (ergazoumai) and applied. The Gospel needs to be spread, the Word preached, His creation used appropriately, and our gifts put into practice. He wants us to be His hands and feet to serve the needs of others in practical ways (pragmateuomai). And God delights in “growth” (diapragmateuomai) in His creation, in grace, in the Church, and in the spiritual lives of believers. So for those of us who want to serve God as faithful stewards, we probably can’t go wrong in managing the resources He has entrusted to us with the same objectives (baring any other direct instruction from the Lord).
The third steward operated out of fear and misunderstanding of the character of the master, and thus focused on trying to achieve his own objectives in stewarding his talents, not the objectives of the master. Unlike him, we don’t want to bury our resources or just sustain them.
We want to share in our Master’s happiness as we strive to be faithful stewards of His goals.
Kent Wilson (PhD) is a leadership coach and nonprofit leadership specialist. After running nonprofit organizations for 30 years, he now serves as an executive coach with Vistage International and program coordinator for CLA’s Leader2Leader peer advisory program. He is also co-founder of the Steward Leader Initiative, and frequently trains boards in steward-governance.
Happy Thanksgiving from the team at Christian Leadership Alliance